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Well, there’s no denying that it is the holiday season.

The air is cool and brisk. The days are getting shorter. And evangelicals are finding new and different ways to be outraged about Americans’ plot to keep Christ out of Christmas.

But above that, we all know it’s the holiday season because everywhere we look we see festive lighting, decorations and pumpkin spice lattes, and we can hear the faint echo of the Nat King Cole and Ella Fitzgerald just about everywhere we go.

Every year around this time, radio stations pull out the old holiday classic, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.”

“Baby, It’s Cold Outside” was written in 1944 by Frank Loesser, and has been considered a Christmas classic and favorite ever since.

Frank Loesser wrote the song for he and his wife to sing as a duet in 1944. They would perform it at dinner parties for their friends, which was a big hit.

“Baby, it’s Cold Outside” is a favorite of ours. So, imagine our surprise when we learned that the holiday classic was “rapey.”

Who’s saying this? Well, hipsters. Who else? There have been tweets and blog posts and journalistic pieces dedicated to a line-by-line “take down” of this song as sexist and as a song that normalizes non-consensual sexual relations.

If this song were on the streets, this attack on it would be a drive-by shooting. Actually, it would be several.

So, we rise in defense of “Baby, it’s Cold Outside.”

Let’s start with the context surrounding the creation of the song. We know context is sticky and inconvenient for hipsters, but it is helpful in this instance.

In 1949, the song grew in popularity because it was used in the film, Neptune’s Daughter, a movie in which the heroine entrepreneur contemplates a business and romantic relationship with a bathing suit manufacturer.

What is more, the words when taken in this context also provide some insight on the meaning of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.”

In the song, the woman clearly asserts her sexual freedom and the man affirms her assertion and encourages her to reject slut shaming associated with the dreaded “walk of shame.”

“The neighbors might think … there’s bound to be talk tomorrow,” the song suggests.

The song presents a liberal agenda for women, as the female guest decides to stay, despite what the neighbors may say.

This is a progressive stance even today, as unmarried women who want to assert themselves sexually are often viewed poorly, or disgraced if they stay at a man’s house.

In 1949, Simone de Beauvoir’s book, The Second Sex, was published in the United States. The term “women’s liberation” was first used in the book.

This illustrates that by the woman choosing to stay, when she could leave, fits with what was starting to happen with the women’s liberation movement.

Many so-called feminists refuse to acknowledge this in the time period that the song was created in, which is ironic in itself, and choose to focus on other parts of the song instead.

Above this, we question how serious hipsters are about protection of the rights and freedoms of women, when there are so many concerns of women of color that go unnoticed or ignored.

How many movies, created even today, do we have to watch in which a black or Latina women is a slave or a maid? How many do we have to see in which women of color are raped, or relegated as one-dimensional, asexual, oversexual, angry creatures?

Gone With the Wind, The Help, Monster’s Ball, Save the Last Dance, or just about any movie with a woman of color in it, are all examples of the marginalization of women.

We’ll wait for an answer

Written by Rev. David Hart and Caitlin McGahan

Rev. David Hart is a pastor, attorney, and author living in Madison.
Caitlin McGahan is a hard-working fashion-forward feminist and artist who lives and writes in Madison.

2 COMMENTS

  1. I’m not sure what you mean about hipsters. I know plenty of intersectional feminists and other social justice activists who take issue with this song.

    It seems to me like you’re the one who is focusing on only one part of the song. “There’s bound to be talk tomorrow…at least there will be plenty implied…” is just two lines in the song. For the rest of it, she’s making excuses to try to get home and he is shutting her down.

    I’ll shout it from the mountaintops: coercion is a form of sexual assault.

  2. Arguments are correct or false based on the convincing nature of the argument, not based on who makes them. This time, the “hipsters” are right, mostly because no one who sings or hears this song today is thinking about 1944. “Hey, what’s in this drink” might have been funny in an age when that wasn’t an actual threat that women face on a regular basis when they attend a college party.

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